Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


famous Essay concerning Human Understanding. Among his lesser
works, written mainly in advocacy of social and intellectual
freedom, was Some Thoughts concerning Education (1693). As the
title indicates, it was a somewhat casual production. In its first
form it consisted of a series of letters to a Somerset friend, giving
advice for his guidance in the training of his son, and was not
intended for publication. But though it retained something of
the character of informal letters even when published, it had
behind it—to give it unity—all the experience Locke had gained
in supervising the tuition, first of the son, and afterwards of the
grandson, of his patron, and all the practical insight of a broad
philosophical mind. Complementary to the Thoughts is an essay
posthumously published, Of the Conduct of the Understanding,
intended by him as a practical appendix to the great Essay to show
how a young man could best cultivate his mind.

In expounding his views on education in the Thoughtsy Locke
deliberately sets himself in opposition to most of the practices of
the grammar schools. His objection is really to schools of any
kind. He admits that there is something to be gained by the
emulation of schoolfellows, but the disadvantages of schools he
regards as far outstripping their advantages. His first objection
to them is one that smacks of Puritanic prejudice, " Till you
can find a school, wherein it is possible for the master to look
after the manners of his scholars, and can show as great effects
of his care of forming their minds to virtue as of forming their
tongues to the learned languages, you must confess that you have
a strange value for words when, preferring the languages of the
ancient Greeks and Romans to that which made them such brave
men, you think it worth while hazarding your son's innocence
and virtue for a little Greek and Latin."* " The point made here
is that the schools sacrifice virtue to learning, but it is obvious
that behind this criticism is an equally strong objection to the
ordinary studies of the schools. This in point of fact he proceeds
to develop later. " A great part of the learning now in fashion
in the schools of Europe, and that goes ordinarily into the round
of education, a gentleman may in good measure be unfurnished
with, without any great disparagement to himself, or prejudice
to his affairs."t It would be far better, he thinks, if the boy's
father made sure that he had a right knowledge of men. " He
* § 70.              t § 94.